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A common question asked over and over again: Are my bees... swarming? ...being robbed? What's going on?

Video courtesy: Rusty Gomez

As you become familiar with bee biology, you quickly learn duties performed by worker bees are done at particular ages. When a honey bee emerges, she stays inside the colony performing house duties such as cleaning cells, feeding larvae, building comb, and caring for the queen. At the age of 15-18 days old she conducts an orientation flight to learn the location of home. She does this by doing a series of figure 8’s in front of her hive so that at day 21 she can start the process of gathering food for the colony!

The obvious difference between an orientation flight and robbing is the number of bees and the behavior at the entrance. Robbing is a fighting event when the orientation flight is more like a dance. Swarming, on the other hand, is a congregation of bees – locked arm in arm, poised ready to take flight.

This beautiful event of aging into a role is common to see but when not understood can be alarming. It only lasts for a short period of time – 30 minutes in most cases; so, when you see it – enjoy the beauty of nature at its best!

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